“Where are the rest of the bananas?” Once again, our
Fearless Leader is displeased with our performance.
We had barely been asleep for a few hours when the night sky was suddenly filled with light. It wasn’t morning yet- streaks of blinding lightning broke through the clouds and emblazoned the entire stratosphere. Our beds rattled with every rumble of thunder and rain poured down in bucketfuls rather than in drops. Cold winds wormed their way through our mosquito nets and chilled our insect-bitten skin. I stared blankly up at my net, listening to the confused chirping of a family of bats overhead through the roaring of the rain. “Guess we’re not going to the lookout this morning,” I thought, finally drifting to sleep in the twilight after almost an entire night of torrential downpour.
I was wrong. “Chiiiicas locas…” Juvenal growled in Spanish at the breakfast table, glaring at me with his hunter stare. “Enjoy your breakfast, because you’re not getting any lunch!” I swallowed in confusion and then realized that he was joking. At least I think he was joking. I attempted a laugh. “¿Qué?” I innocently questioned. “You were supposed to be here at five. Five! What happened?” he asked, exasperated. “Lo siento, I’m sorry,” I squeaked. “But it was raining all night, and we thought there wouldn’t be any birds out this morning, and we didn’t get much sleep-” “Ha!” Juvenal jeered. “We always go to the clay lick! Five o’clock. And we count how many birds come and go. Always.” “Sorry,” I said, guiltily averting my eyes. “No sorry,” he scowled and began to gnaw at a piece of bread. It didn’t look like Juvenal and I would be getting along.
Para Pacha Mama
Things went better with Reynaldo. We met him on the other side of the river to- you guessed it- plant more trees. The dramatic heat and sunlight of the day were a stark contrast to the downpour and cold of the night before. We ignored our bodily cues to stop working, and pushed through exhaustion and dehydration to get the job done. When we were finished, kind Reynaldo took us to the nearest shop for a soda. The girls got Coca Cola while Reynaldo and I both drank Inca Cola. I sipped on my bubble gum-like drink as he made his way to the front door and poured some of the frothing beverage on the ground outside. I looked at him perplexed. “Para Pacha Mama. Para Santa Tierra,” he explained. For mother earth. I smiled and poured some Inca Cola on the ground. “Para Pacha Mama.”
Tito to the Rescue
When we reached the peke peke, Tito was wide-eyed and all aflutter. “There’s a porcupine by the beach!” he blurted out in Spanish. “I was on the boat and saw it! It’s stuck on a ledge. It was flooded out with the rain.” He mimed rushing water. “We are going to save him!” he said excitedly. Then the men began to warn us about porcupines and their barbed quills. “You can take care of this one, Tito,” I thought.
There is no more pathetic sight than a cold, tired porcupine hanging on for dear life. We came upon the poor creature perched on a small ledge facing the river. We went onshore for Tito to collect his rescue tool- a rope wrapped around a long stick- and got back on the peke peke to save the spiny soul.
(Photo cred: Erica Moutrie)
After several attempts, Tito finally managed to slip the rope over the animal’s neck. At first, the porcupine seemed to be too spent to put up a fight, but as soon as the rope was around his neck, he began to flail like a large bass at the end of a fishing line. I stepped back as the frightened critter squealed like a baby pig and showered down yellow quills on the boat. “Quiero ayudarte, pequeñito,” Tito calmly said to the porcupine. “I want to help you, small one.”
After much difficulty, Tito shook the rope loose and set the porcupine free. Like a man possessed, he dashed up the stairs and up a tree, away from us crazy humans who had gathered around him. Beaming with pride, Tito extracted the quills jutting out of the boat and gave them to us to keep as momentos.
Readying the rope.
(Photo Cred: Erica Moutrie)